ASA blame VISA issues as athletes are left behind for IAU 50km World Champs
South Africa's top ultra marathon runners have been left disappointed after being selected to represent the country at the International Association of Ultramarathons 50km World Championships only to find out that they are no longer going - just four days before the race. Athletics South Africa (ASA) chose twelve athletes (six women and six men) to run in the championships which take place in the Indian city of Hydrebad on Sunday 5 November. But after training for months, athletes were horrified to learn that they would no longer be travelling to the Asian subcontinent.
"All dressed up and literally nowhere to go except back home," said Comrades Marathon double gold medalist Adele Broodryk when she arrived at the OR Tambo International Airport on Wednesday 1 November to find out that she is no longer going to India. "I've always had two big running dreams which are to run Comrades and to represent my country, South Africa. I arrived at the airport today only to find out my passport and VISA requirements were not finalized. How I wish I just did all the arrangements myself. Am I disappointed? Definitely! I am only human!!! Months of hard work, training, juggling all the balls, getting the foot ready, sacrificing family time, work, and other races..."
Broodryk ended up being one of eight athletes that were originally named in the team but did not board the airplane to India on Wednesday: Jenet Mbhele, Makhosazane Mhlongo, Galaletsang Mekgoe, Dan Matshailwe, Nkhosikhona Mhlakwana, Gladwin Mzazi, Sikhumbuzo Seme. Only Rufus Photo, Pule Sibeko, Stella Marais and Deanne Loubsher had arrived India by the morning of Friday 3 November. Speaking to #TheTopRunner, ASA CEO Terrence Magogodela said VISA issues had scuppered their best laid plans.
"We have had VISA issues with the India consulate. So some of the athletes left yesterday and we are hoping that some will leave tonight and then another group tomorrow morning," said Magogodela on Thursday (2 November) afternoon when asked about the administrative bungle that led to some the country's best ultra marathon athletes being left behind.
But team managers of the country's elite running club's and the athletes themselves have rejected this explanation. Those close to the situation suggest that something else is amiss here. "I don't buy the VISA thing," said one top runner. "ASA is usually the best at getting VISAs for athletes. I'm starting to wonder if this isn't about money. Maybe they didn't have the money to send the entire team? If that is the case then they should have told us in time because we trained for months and had to sacrifice other races."
But perhaps most disappointing of all is that with only two women and two men having travelled to the 50km World Championships, South Africa will no longer be eligible for a medal in the team prize, where at least three athletes per gender category are required for a full team. Mzansi has a proud history in the competition with Lucas Nonyana having won the individual men's gold medal in 2009 as Sandile Ngunuza and Lungile Gongqa took silver in 2010 and 2019 respectively, while the 2019 men's team won the team gold medal.